Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
iSmell (2001) (wikipedia.org)
29 points by andreygrehov on Oct 30, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 13 comments

I remember when this was in the news and had a hard time believing that it wasn't a joke. Even apart from the terrible branding, the idea has several flaws that everyone (except the people behind it) immediately saw.

The second most important flaw is that computers can fool the human visual system into seeing color with only 3 signals, but our noses can distinguish hundreds of individual chemicals.

But even if that was somehow overcome, what is the use case? The company had some demo of a person buying perfume online, sampling each one using a webpage. But if I had a box attached to my computer that could generate the smell of perfume with any accuracy, why would I ever buy perfume again? Just get the box to exude the liquid it was using to make the smell in the first place.

> why would I ever buy perfume again

Because it would be cheaper, in greater volume, and easier to apply to your person than the smells generated by the device.

It took 5 years to name this 'one of the "25 Worst Tech Products of All Time"', but the idea was already being made fun of 5 years before this product hit the market.


Be sure to check out the <DEVELOPERS' CORNER>


Did anyone buy one if these? If so, would love to hear your thoughts.

Review: https://www.wired.com/1999/11/digiscent/ (TL;DR: It actually worked, with a pre-alpha version and 26 distinct smells during a few minutes of video)

> was designed to emit a smell when a user visited a web site or opened an email.

What a waste. All this potential, and the best application was websites?

I've been thinking about an idea like this over past few years, but in my view, the applications would be immersive 4D movies - adding a smell dimension to the experience that already features 3D images, sound, and tactile effects like blowing wind, water dripping on you, etc. - and immersive video games.

Anyway, thanks for posting. Until today I didn't know anyone was seriously working on something like that.

Silly as this is, I've often thought about digitally recording smells for re-emission. For the consumer it probably isn't very useful, but having been knee-deep in the theatre world in my college years, I longed for the opportunity to contribute "smell design" to productions. Smell is often described as the sense most strongly tied to emotional response, and so using it as a tool to evoke emotion in the theater would be really interesting!

Silly as this product is, as a kid I always wished for something like this to up the immersiveness of video games. Maybe it would be doubly effective now with VR.

Getting it in a reasonable form factor and some practical issues (stinking up the house) seem like roadblocks, but I wouldn't be surprised to see something like this come back around, focused on gaming.

I was always thinking about cinemas - especially since I first saw a "4D movie", in which they augment the usual 3D movie experience with tactile effects generators - air blowing at you to simulate wind, small amounts of water suddenly being sprayed at you, etc. It really added to the immersiveness of what you were watching, and the only thing lacking was smell effects.

You would just need the smell of blood, gunpowder, and charred meat.

I remember seeing this at a tradeshow and wanting to buy their $99 developer kit, but they disappeared from the market before I got around to it :-)

I asked them about the "hundreds of chemicals" and they claimed 10 or 12 were enough for most scents. (Compare display gamut to full range of visible light.)

I tried one of these at COMDEX, and it was kind of underwhelming. All of the smells were vaguely floral and fruity, but I still smiled and nodded as the attendant described what I was supposed to be smelling.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact